ICE’s Sloppy Public Data Releases Undermine Congress’s Transparency Mandate
(20 Sep 2022) ICE’s latest release of detention data is, once again, riddled with errors. ICE’s data on Alternatives to Detention wrongly reports enrollments of 96,574 people, because the agency mistakenly released data from May 2021 rather than September 2022. (The actual number is closer to 300,000.) ICE’s reported data on immigrant detention facilities shows a similar but even more egregious error: the recently released data is, in fact, for February of Fiscal Year 2020—over two years old.

The Department of Homeland Security is required by law to release these detention data to the public. When the Congress ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to publish data on immigrant detention, perhaps it should have been clearer that it expected ICE to produce accurate data—not inconsistent, error-ridden, and misleading data that the agency currently provides to the public on a regular basis.

Over the past two years, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, has been collecting, vetting, and analyzing ICE’s bi-weekly public detention data releases. To Congress’s credit, the required data reports are valuable and provide important insight into trends in immigrant detention, alternatives to detention, and vulnerable populations. But the data is also requires constant vigilance due to frequent errors, including missing data, out-of-date data, inaccurate data, or nonsensical data—all of which renders the required data unusable to the public.

As TRAC’s latest report shows using detailed examples from the past year, these errors are now too frequent to be ignored and raise concerns that the agency is contributing to, rather than alleviating, misinformation about the immigration system. TRAC urges ICE to improve its transparency and quality assurance practices, and urges Congress and the public to hold the agency accountable to its lawful transparency obligations.

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